Owning a business is stressful. Owning a FAMILY business is stressful and complicated in a way that can only truly be understood by those who have experienced that special kind of craziness. Families are complicated and emotional and messy. Exactly what you don’t want in a business. However families also have a strength, loyalty and level of commitment to each other that you can’t easily replicate in a non-family business environment. The trick is to find the right balance of crazy.
When my brother and I decided to take over my father’s HVAC business, we all agreed upon several guidelines for behavior. All solid common sense rules for happiness in the family workplace that I would recommend to anyone. Though honestly, they’re easier to SAY than they are to DO. You’ve probably heard a few of them:
- Family is the most important thing. The business is second.
- Don’t refer to each other as “Daddy” or “pumpkin” in the workplace.
- Don’t bring work issues home.
- Don’t bring family issues to work.
- Don’t bicker in front of the employees.
I have one more big one to add to the list:
- Find someone, NOT A FAMILY MEMBER, who you can vent to. And vent like crazy.
There is a tremendous amount of emotional baggage that comes with being part of a family business. The majority of it never needs to see the light of day. And it never, ever, should see the inside of your office. But it’s gotta come out somewhere. So you need to find a safe place to let it.
I strongly suggest NOT venting to another family member for a couple of reasons. First, if they’re not a direct employee of the company, they shouldn’t be allowed to “get a vote” or have a say in company business. If they want access, they should join the company. Second, it’s just unfair and unhealthy to put a family member in a position where they feel like they have to take sides. And most importantly, your other family members may see not your rants as business affairs. They may perceive them as family conflicts and that may cause them pain. It’s better for all involved to separate ‘church and state’ as much as possible.
My confidant is my husband, bless his patient/wonderful/non-judging heart. He is on the receiving end of my 99.9% of my venting. A few of my very close friends take care of the other 0.1%. Fortunately, they all know me well enough to know that I probably only mean about half of the terrible things that come out of my mouth. As for the other half that I really do mean, they give me the benefit of mental filtering because they know that I mean to say it in a much nicer way than I actually said it. You need people like this in your life who allow you to be imperfect and a little ugly now and again and love you anyway. (Now is probably an excellent time to take a moment to thank the wonderful people in my life who fill this essential role for me. You know who you are. You keep me sane and make me a better person to the rest of the world. Thank you, thank you, thank you!)
Aside from the invaluable stress relief that purging gives, the other major benefit of venting is that it gives you the opportunity to sort out what really IS important. If I find that I’m venting about the same issues over and over, it’s probably because I haven’t addressed something that really needs attention, so I make a plan to address it. If it’s just blowing off steam, I let it all evaporate, go watch some TV and then fall peacefully asleep, usually with a book on my face.
If you’ve got tips to share, I’d love to hear them!